Category Archives: Theory

On pictures and the words that fail them

On pictures and the words that fail them / James Elkins.

Publisher: Cambridge, England : Cambridge University Press, 1998.Description: xix,326 pages : illustrations (black and white) ; 24cm.ISBN: 9780521624992; 0521624991

In this innovative, interdisciplinary study, James Elkins argues against the assumption that images can be adequately described in words. In his view, words must always fail because pictures possess a residue of ‘meaningless’ marks that cannot be apprehended as signs. On Pictures and the Words that Fail Them is a 1998 text which provides detailed, incisive critiques of fundamental notions about pictures: their allegedly semiotic structures; the ‘rational’ nature of realism; and the ubiquity of the figure-ground relation. Elkins then opens the concept of images to non-Western and prehistoric ideas, exploring Chinese concepts of magic, Mesopotamian practices of counting and sculpture, religious ideas about hypostasis, philosophical discussions concerning invisibility and blindness, and questions on the limits of the destruction of meaning.

The Fragment: Towards a History and Poetics of a Performative Genre

The Fragment: Towards a History and Poetics of a Performative Genre 

This monograph is an interdisciplinary study of the concept of ‘fragment’ in literature and in critical and literary theory. It discusses the fragment’s performativity and function within a historical perspective, stretching from Heraclitus, via the German Romantics and European writers of the Modernist period, to American postmodern manifestations of the fragment. This is the first history of the fragment to appear in English, and it is also the first attempt at producing a consistent taxonomy of literary and critical fragments. The fragments are categorised according to function, not author intention, and the study addresses a number of questions: What constitutes the fragment, when the fragment can only be defined a posterior? Does the fragment begin on its own, or is it begun by others, writers and critics? Does it acquire a name of its own, or is it labelled by others? All these questions revolve around issues of agency, and they are best discussed in terms of performativity, which means seeing fragments as acts: acts of literature, acts of reading, acts of writing. The book demonstrates how a poetics of the fragment as a performative genre can be created, situating the fragment both as literature and as a phenomenon within postmodern criticism against the background of philosophy, art history, and theology

Paperback: 410 pages

Publisher: Peter Lang Publishing (15 Dec. 2004)

  • ISBN-10: 0820471585
  • ISBN-13: 978-0820471587

Phenomenologies of art and vision: a post-analytic turn / Paul Crowther.

Phenomenologies of art and vision: a post-analytic turn / Paul Crowther.

by CrowtherPaul;

Publisher: New York : Continuum International Publishing Group, 2013.Description: 1 online resource (pages cm).ISBN: 1283950677; 1441130675; 9781283950671; 9781441130679.

Painting as an art: Wollheim and the subjective dimension — Abstract art and transperceptual space: Wolheim, and beyond — Truth in art: Heidegger against contextualism — Space, place, and sculpture: Heidegger’s pathways — Vision in being: Merleau-Ponty and the depths of painting — Subjectivity, the gaze, and the picture: developing Lacan — Dimensions in time: Dufrenne’s phenomenology of pictorial art — Conclusion: a preface to post-analytic phenomenology.

Note: Includes bibliographical references and index.

Contemporarydiscussions of the image like to emphasize art’s societal functions. Fewstudies come close to answering why pictures and sculptures fascinate andintrigue regardless of any practical functions they might serve. In thisoriginal, thought-provoking study, Paul Crowther reveals the intrinsicsignificance of pictures and sculptures. To address thequestion of how painting becomes an art, Crowther uses the analytic philosophyof Richard Wollheim as a starting point. But to sufficiently answer thequestion, he makes an important link to a tradition much more successful ingiving voice to the deeper ontology of visual art – existential phenomenology. The result is a work that demonstrates thereciprocal relationship between phenomenology and analytic aesthetics. Toexpand its ontological scope and solve the problem of expression, analytic aestheticsneeds phenomenology; while to develop a sustained, critically balanced, and intellectually available ontology, phenomenology needs the discursive force andlucidity of analytic philosophy. This convincing case for a post-analyticphenomenology of art is an important advancement of contemporary discussions ofthe philosophy of art.

Archeology of violence / Pierre Clastres

Archeology of violence / Pierre Clastres ; introduction by Eduardo Viveiros de Castro.

by Clastres, Pierre, 1934-Clastres, Pierre, 1934-Castro, Eduardo Batalha Viveiros de.

Semiotext(e) foreign agents seriesDescription: Los Angeles, Calif. : Semiotext(e), c2010; 335 pages ; 23 cm.ISBN: 9781584350934; 1584350938.

The war machine is the motor of the social machine; the primitive social being relies entirely on war, primitive society cannot survive without war. The more war there is, the less unification there is, and the best enemy of the State is war. Primitive society is society against the State in that it is society-for-war.–from The Archeology of Violence

Anthropologist and ethnographer Pierre Clastres was a major influence on Gilles Deleuze and  Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus, and his writings formed an essential chapter in the discipline of political anthropology. The posthumous publication in French of Archeology of Violence in 1980 gathered together Clastres’s final groundbreaking essays and the opening chapters of the book he had begun before his death in 1977 at the age of 43. Elaborating upon the conclusions of such earlier works as Society Against the State, in these essays Clastres critiques his former mentor, Claude Levi-Strauss, and devastatingly rejects the orthodoxy of Marxist anthropology and other Western interpretive models of “primitive societies.” Discarding the traditional anthropological understanding of war among South American Indians as arising from a scarcity of resources, Clastres instead identifies violence among these peoples as a deliberate means to territorial segmentation and the avoidance of a State formation. In their refusal to separate the political from the social, and in their careful control of their tribal chiefs–who are rendered weak so as to remain dependent on the communities they represent–the “savages” Clastres presents prove to be shrewd political minds who resist in advance any attempt at “globalization.”The essays in this, Clastres’s final book, cover subjects ranging from ethnocide and shamanism to “primitive” power and economy, and are as vibrant and engaging as they were thirty years ago. This new edition–which includes an introduction by Eduardo Viverios de Castro–holds even more relevance for readers in today’s an era of malaise and globalization.

Textures of the anthropocene : grain, vapor, ray

Textures of the anthropocene : grain, vapor, ray / edited by Katrin Klingan, Ashkan Sepahvand, Christoph Rosol, Bernd M. Scherer.

by Klingan, Katrin [editor.]Sepahvand, Ashkan [editor.]Rosol,Christoph [editor.]Scherer, Bernd M [editor.]Haus der Kulturen der WeltDeutsches Museum (Germany).

Publisher: Cambridge, Massachusetts : The MIT Press, [2015]Description: 321 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 24 cm.ISBN: 9780262527415; 0262527413; 9783957632326.

Note: “Published in conjunction with “The Anthropocene project 2013/2014”, an initiative of Haus der Kulturen der Welt in cooperation with the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Deutsches Museum, Munich, the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, Munich, and the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, Postdam. “

We have entered the Anthropocene era — a geological age of our own making, in which what we have understood to be nature is made by man. We need a new way to understand the dynamics of a new epoch. These volumes offer writings that approach the Anthropocene through the perspectives of grain, vapor, and ray — the particulate, the volatile, and the radiant. The first three volumes — each devoted to one of the three textures — offer a series of paired texts, with contemporary writers responding to historic writings. A fourth volume offers a guide to the project as a whole.

Grain: Granular materials add up to concrete forms; insignificant specks accumulate into complex entities. The texts in this volume narrate some of the fundamental qualities of the granular. In one pairing of texts, Robert Smithson compares the accumulation of thoughts to the aggregation of sediment, and an environmental historian writes about the stakes for earthly knowledge today. Other authors include Alfred Russel Wallace, Denis Diderot, and Georges Bataille.

Vapor : The vaporous represents matter’s transformations. In this volume, a political scientist compares Kafka’s haunting “Odradek” to “vibrant matter”; a media theorist responds to poems and diagrams by Buckminster Fuller; and more, including texts by Hippocrates, Italo Calvino, and James Clerk Maxwell.

Ray : A ray is an act of propagation and diffusion, encompassing a chain of interdependencies between energy and matter. This volume includes texts by Spinoza (with a reconceptualization by a contemporary philosopher), Jacques Lacan (followed by an anthropologist’s reflections on temporality), Thomas Pynchon (accompanied by an interpretation of Pynchon’s “electro-mysticism”), and others.

These volumes constitute a unique experiment in design and composition as well as content. The mingling of texts and the juxtaposition of different areas of knowledge represented in a variety of forms express the dynamics of a world in change

The image as figure of thought

From Gansterer- Drawing a Hypothesis